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The College Student Vs. The Cheater

What is the definition of cheating, exactly?  Obviously, plagiarism is a big no-no for when you take someone else’s work while giving yourself the credit that constitutes as cheating, right?  While learning, you only gain what you put into it, therefore, you gain nothing when you utilize the efforts of someone else to benefit yourself.   Peeking over someone’s shoulder while filling out those sheets with all the bubbles in a regular classroom is the thought that comes to mind when I imagine a cheater.  Sadly enough, it seems as though people are willing to take the easy route and basically fail upwards in order to get by in life, but in reality, all those individuals are doing is cheating themselves.

So here you are, working on a team assignment for one of your classes when someone in your team decides to do their portion by copying information found from the Internet.  They cite their sources, and it’s obvious that they plagiarized the material if someone were to double check but because the team is in a rush to get the project turned in, no one double checks it.  As a result of this neglect on the team’s part to make sure everything is kosher, and because of the singular team member’s inherent laziness, the whole team ends up suffering for it after the fact. 

Now, imagine this same team, whose members are all working hard to earn the best grade possible, and there is that one singular team member who instead of contributing, does nothing at all until the last minute and does the minimal amount of work possible if at all.  The assignment is turned in, and the team gets an A.  Was that A truly earned?  Perhaps, as a result of the efforts of the team members, who put forth the greatest amount of effort, but what about the team member who did nothing?  Since technically the A grade is for the collective, does the individual earn that A as well?

Then we have the student who upon doing an assignment simply skims the material to get the answers to the questions assigned instead of reading the required chapters and gets an A on the assignment.  Would this constitute cheating?  Perhaps not because the work is technically done by the student, but shouldn't the student be graded for the efforts put into the class work?  Obviously, instructors only know what they observe first hand, so grading upon efforts can be quite difficult.   Ultimately, the student cheats him/herself out of the valued information contained within the class. 

Imagine this conundrum.  My ex-husband went to Michigan Technological University for three years majoring in Chemical Engineering.  At the time, MTU was going by quarters rather than by semesters, so when the university decided to make the switch, nearly half of the credits that my ex had accumulated were thrown out the window, which of course tacked on another two to three years for him to graduate.  My ex studied hard and did well in all his classes.  He is a stickler when it comes to reading through all of the material and even going so far as reading above and beyond the required reading.  Upset by the transition, he dropped out of college and never received his degree but even after ten years still maintains the knowledge that he had learned through his tenure there.  He now works at a polyurethane manufacturer and has contributed greatly to the company he works for.  He is proficient in his work ethic and has headed up numerous improvements that have had a positive impact within the company.  His supervisor has a degree, and from my understanding doesn't quite put in as much effort in his work as my ex has put into his, and a number of improvements my ex had made for the company weren't clearly understood by the degree holding supervisor, who is a close friend with the owner?

In the end, whose experience holds more weight?  The individual who put forth the efforts to continue on in the self-directed study, who attended 3 years in a university and is passionate about learning and doing a good job or the individual who could possibly be perceived as one who didn't put much effort into their studies and only did the bare minimum-someone who instead of focusing on the knowledge attained by going through a 4-year degree program through a college or university instead focused on the piece of paper, which ultimately signifies that the individual, in fact, knows the information studied?

Although some may be angered or perhaps annoyed with this article simply because there are a few people who can speed read and absorb the facts that are necessary, but I believe the details are just as necessary.  In order for your degree to hold weight, you have to have the actual knowledge to back up that piece of paper for in the end when you are thrust head-first into the work force upon graduation you are expected to know what you had studied and complete the required tasks given to you.  If you don’t know the information, then the degree means nothing more than a lot of money wasted.

Do not cheat yourself by relying on other people to do the work for you, and do not cheat yourself out of a good job by slacking off in your own studies.  Everyone has their moments of cramming, of last-minute preparations, but don’t completely cheat yourself by doing the bare minimum for if you go above and beyond the studies of your degree program, if you focus your energy in the material and assignments which you are given, the better prepared you are to face the challenges within your future jobs.  In the end, you can be proud of how far you have come, and by doing it yourself and not cheating yourself, you will have that genuine sense of pride and the respect of those around you. 


Clare Regina's picture

I think a big problem with

I think a big problem with students in colleges today is that they don’t even realize that they are plagiarizing work when they copy and paste from the Internet. For most of these students, the Internet was a new phenomenon when they were in school and many teachers had not caught up yet. Even today, when I am teaching middle and high school students, they don’t understand what is wrong with copying and pasting.
I try to explain plagiarism to students in two ways. One, you must credit the source because acknowledging someone else’s hard work is the right thing to do. Two, you must rewrite information in your own words because a teacher is evaluating your work, not someone else’s. I tell them that I am using their research paper to assess how well they can find a source, read it, understand it, and explain it in their own words. I tell them that anyone can just copy and paste, and I am not grading their computer skills!
As for group work, I and my siblings have had many problems with exactly the second scenario you described. I have been taught in my education classes that secondary students should be held responsible for group work by either assigning roles to each student or by having each group create and commit to a “contract,” just as adults would. If a student does not do the work he or she is responsible for, it is reflected in his or her individual grade. I believe that if practices like this are reinforced in lower levels of education, in the future group work and collaborations will not be so problematic in college.
Jay Pineda's picture

I first thought that his blog

I first thought that his blog post would be about cheaters. And when I say cheaters, I mean those who cheat on exams in any way. But this blog post made me realize that there is another type of a cheater and it is much worse than the cheating during exams. Cheaters like this ones are the most irritating ones. I have already encountered people like them on group projects or group seatworks, but I never realized that they are the worst type of cheaters. I just realized that they are when I read your blog. They are the worst because they are too lazy to do their part on the project. They just do the copy-paste magic trick to make their part. I really won't mind if this won't  affect the group, but this is really affecting the group. His individual contribution can pull down the group's grade and waste the efforts of other members. This is very annoying. Another type of cheater in groups can be a group leader itself, though they are not plagiarizing. Some group leaders tend to assign tasks to members and they take the easier ones. That's how they cheat the group. Equally annoying with those plagiarizers right? Cheaters like them should be reprimanded or else they will continue their wrong doings.